Reflections of Our Savior
“For it is by grace you are saved, through faith... [Ephesians 2:8a]
Dear members and friends of Our Savior:
“Grace, Faith, Scripture”---This is the foundation of the Lutheran Reformation. Faith comes to us by grace, through the “Means of Grace”: The gospel in Word and Sacrament.
The Scriptures proclaim a specific faith in a true and living God. We trust that entirely because of His grace: He sent His only Son to be our Savior. Our faith does not speculate about something uncertain. Rather, our faith rests on the sure and certain good news that our sins are forgiven an account of the perfect life and innocent death of our Savior Jesus. Also, since we are spiritually dead because of our sinful nature, faith does not come from within us. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. He “calls us by the gospel and enlightens us with His gifts” as we confess in Luther’s explanation to the Third Article.
So ask, “How does the Holy Spirit convert my unbelieving heart into one that clings to the cross of Jesus for the assurance of my salvation?” The answer is through the Means of Grace. The gospel in Word and Sacrament are the “means” that the Holy Spirit uses to call us to faith, keep us in the faith, and enlighten us to see His spiritual gifts.
The Holy Spirit gives faith in Christ for our salvation through the Word itself, as the Apostle Paul assures Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15) when he writes “You have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” And Paul writes to the Romans (10:17), “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” The Sacrament of Baptism also is a means of grace, as Peter proclaims (Acts 2:38), “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children...” The Sacrament of Holy Communion also offers, grants and seals what it promises, the forgiveness of sins, according to the Lord’s own institution (Matthew 26:26-28 for example).
Our Lutheran fathers since the Reformation in the 16th century found it necessary to always affirm what the Bible teaches concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, that He grants His gifts through “means” as our Lutheran Confessions state: “That we may obtain this (saving) faith, the Ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, where and when it pleases God” (Augsburg Confession, Art. V).
Knowing that the Holy Spirit grants His spiritual gifts through the Means of Grace give us an in exhaustible source of comfort and peace. And it certainly reminds us of the importance of regular church attendance and reception of the Lord’s Supper, as well as the necessity of “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”
Praise be to our loving God for the gifts He gives through the Means of Grace.